A future saint’s encouragement to diocesan priests

Bishop James F. Checchio, at the time a seminarian for the Diocese of Camden, is pictured with Mother Teresa in Rome.
Bishop James F. Checchio, at the time a seminarian for the Diocese of Camden, is pictured with Mother Teresa in Rome.

In 1997, when Mother Teresa died, the Catholic Star Herald printed memories that some local priests had of the future saint.

Both Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, formerly a priest of the Camden Diocese, and Father Ronald S. Falotico, who died last year, recalled her encouraging them in their priestly ministry — and being humbled by her humility.

“Asking us to pray for her made us stop and think,” Bishop Checchio said, recalling his seminary days in Rome and working in a soup kitchen and shelter run by the Missionaries of Charity.

“Whenever Mother came to Rome she made it a point to invite the seminarians to morning Mass,” he said. He remembered that she was always willing to pose for a picture and never hurried anyone who wanted to speak to her.

“She would always tell us, ‘the world needs holy priests,’” he recalled.

Father Falotico heard a similar message when he visited Rome in 1997 and met Mother Teresa. “She admonished me not to kiss her hands, since I have ‘priestly hands’ that are consecrated to make the Eucharist present for God’s people,’” he recalled.

Msgr. Louis A. Marucci, pastor of Saint Andrew the Apostle Parish in Gibbsboro, never met Mother Teresa, but he too got encouragement from her about the importance of the priesthood. All he had to do was dial long distance to India from South Jersey.

In 1996, he called the motherhouse in Kolkata, hoping to arrange a time when Mother Teresa might have a few minutes to give him advice for his job as vocation director of the diocese. He expected to have his call routed through several channels, and he held out only a faint hope that he would ever actually speak to Mother Teresa.

A sister answered. When Msgr. Marucci said he hoped to speak to Mother Teresa, she said, “Just a second.”

“The next voice I heard was Mother Teresa’s,” Msgr. Marucci recalled.

One reason Msgr. Marucci decided to try to talk to her that day in 1996 was because he had received a note from her three years earlier.

At the time he was in the midst of a seven-month stay in the hospital because of complications arising from multiple sclerosis. A friend of the priest, who knew of his admiration for Mother Teresa, had written to the nun, asking her to send him some words of encouragement.

Unaware of who the letter was from, the priest listened as the letter was read to him, telling him that suffering can be a gift from God.

“My first reaction was, ‘How can someone be saying this to me?’ Initially, it was difficult to comprehend until I heard who authored the letter,” Msgr. Marucci said. “Mother put things in proper perspective, which allowed me to transform my own suffering,” he added. “Inner healing and peace started that day.

Mother Teresa’s 1992 to then-Father Louis A. Marucci:

Dear Father Louis Marucci

I am sorry to hear of your suffering. Accept your affliction as a gift from God — offer it — to Him lovingly, it is hard — but the wood of the Cross was hard too. Surrender to Jesus — let him do whatever He wants — let Him use you without consulting you — offer everything for the Church, for holiness in our priests and religious. Thank and praise God for this chance to suffer with Jesus. Do not be afraid — Jesus loves you with an everlasting love — you are precious to Him. Enclosed is a medal for you to war — Say very often during the day — ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus, be a Mother to me now. God bless you.


  1. Teresa, M.C.